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New discretionary licensing scheme to boost private rented housing standards
Release date: Fri, 05/10/2012
A new licensing scheme aimed at improving the quality of private rented housing and how it is managed has been approved by Bristol City Council's Cabinet.
The Discretionary Licensing Scheme, which was given the go-ahead lon September 27, will cover landlords in the Easton and Lawrence Hill area of the city.
The scheme would require nearly all private rented property owners to apply for a licence and would help landlords manage the behaviour of tenants.
Councillor Anthony Negus, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration, said: “We want to help private landlords in this pilot area to improve the quality of housing by addressing the problems caused by a small minority of their number who cause a disproportionate amount of trouble.
“The ownership of a kite-marked licence will encourage confidence among tenants renting in the area because they know that it will guarantee certain standards.
“We recognise that we have a shared interest in working with private landlords to build on good practice and have consulted widely over the introduction of this scheme. We believe this will make a very positive contribution towards making Lawrence Hill and Easton an even better place to live and work.”
The scheme has been drawn up following widespread consultation with residents and private landlords in the Easton and Lawrence Hill areas.
The area – including St Jude’s, Stapleton Road, St Mark’s Road and Robertson Road – has been chosen for the following reasons:
- The level of private rented property in the area is 41 per cent of the total housing stock, compared to 21 per cent citywide
- A quarter of all complaints to the council’s private housing service last year were about properties in this area – 492 out of 1,939
- Residents are twice as likely to experience anti-social behaviour and crime rates are double the citywide average
Inspections will be targeted initially at those landlords who have a history of non- compliance with minimum housing or tenancy condition standards.
The scheme complements improvements in the area by residents, Safer Bristol and Avon and Somerset Police.
Good landlords who submit their applications on time and whose houses are of a reasonable condition and standard will be rewarded with a simplified inspection programme and with limited requirements to undertake work.
By licensing properties the council will be able to require all landlords to ensure that their property meets certain standards and landlords themselves will need to meet ‘fit and proper’ criteria. The scheme will start in spring 2013.
Landlords that do not meet the requirements of the scheme could face the threat of the takeover of the management of their properties by the council.
Several other areas in the city are being considered for a similar licensing scheme.
The fee structure is being reviewed following consultation. The application fees would be one of the lowest in the country and would be applied up front to cover a five-year period. Fee income will only be used to pay for the costs of the licensing scheme and may not be used for any other council service.
However, if landlords fail to fully co-operate or fail to license their property, a much higher fee will apply.